Smart watches Alpina takes to Kickstarter with the Alpiner X
Peter Stas has always been one step ahead of the pack when it comes to the Swiss watch industry’s response to the rise of the smart watch.
He launched the world’s first “horological smartwatch” with Frédérique Constant, putting the emphasis on the watch rather than the screen. He spun out MMT, the Swiss Made smart watch module manufacturer, as a separate company before selling the Frédérique Constant Group to Citizen. Late last year he launched the world’s first commercially available hybrid mechanical smart watch not in Switzerland but in the home country of Apple. At Baselworld he presented the first “outdoors” smart watch in an unusual way for an established brand. Peter Stas always seems to be one step ahead of his competitors.
The launch of the new Alpiner X smart watch by Alpina was novel in many respects. The watch was presented at Baselworld but was actually launched on the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform, where it sits among thousands of other watch-related projects looking for funding. The big difference for Alpina is that this is more an exercise in marketing than funding, even though the project was oversubscribed by more than five times just three days into the campaign.
Screenshot Kickstarter, 19 April 2018
Like any form of online commerce, Alpina’s Kickstarter campaign met with resistance from its retailers, who always prefer to sell watches through their own channels and keep the profit margin, and the customer relationship, for themselves. “Once we show them the buzz we are getting and the feedback we are receiving from customers and they understand that all this information helps them to sell the watches in their shops, they change their mind,” explains Peter Stas.
From the brand’s point of view, this valuable data comes at a bargain price, since the discounts of up to 50% of the retail price of the watch offered to the early birds who sign up first for the Kickstarter program more or less equates to the margin that would otherwise be given to the retailer. More than a hundred comments received over the first three days of the campaign, many of which went into great detail, confirmed that the public shared my initial appreciation of the Alpiner X as “a watch, not a screen” and it quickly emerged that the majority of customers wanted a second strap with their watch. This feedback was coming almost in real time as Peter Stas browsed through the comments on Kickstarter on his phone as we spoke on the brand’s booth at Baselworld. “I don’t have to do any marketing any more, the customers are doing it for us,” he joked.
The reality is that Peter Stas, as the CEO of an established watch brand, took a wager in using Kickstarter for the launch of the Alpiner X. The platform’s primary goal is, after all, to allow start-up companies to bring in cash in the form of pledges that allow them to realise the projects that they are promoting. In Alpina’s case the watch already existed and there was never any question that it would not be produced. In just 30 days, however, Kickstarter will have provided valuable feedback and data that it might otherwise have taken up to 12 months to trickle back down through the retail network to the group’s headquarters in Plan-les-Ouates. “It should not be underestimated, though, because it takes a lot of work,” concludes Peter Stas.